This article is partly in answer to a man who recently wrote in asking for suggestions on how to help his church escape their tithing mindset. His email did not work so hopefully he will see this...
Whether you are interested in escaping the tithing error yourself or if you are already free from it and would like to help others escape, the following information will hopefully help.
Because of all the fear of being “cursed” which dubious teachers have incorrectly instilled in Christians regarding any failure to tithe, tithing is not surprisingly one of the most difficult bad habits for Christians to break. So when dealing with individual Christians or entire churches that are dead set on tithing, even if you have an opportunity to bring the truth to help expose this error, it will likely take some time for their overall mindset to change from tithing to non-tithing. This is to be expected. But nevertheless, to be effective, whatever we do to try to help Christians come to the truth on any subject should be done in gentleness, love and patience.
In deconstructing the complex tithing error, we cannot force the correct view upon others but we can gently persuade them by bringing the truth about tithing from the Bible. This includes pointing out the following:
According to 2Cor9: 6-7, Christians are supposed to be cheerful givers as led by the Holy Spirit, not giving under compulsion or out of necessity but instead (as implied in this passage), by love. It is impossible for someone to keep the command to not give under compulsion or necessity while at the same time incorrectly believing that they owe a compulsory or necessary tax of 10% of their income.
I already covered many of the important Scriptural points that expose tithing as an error in my article Is Tithing Biblical?
A Few Practical Suggestions
Even upon the presentation of solid evidence refuting the tithing myth, surely many Christians will resist the truth and demand that they pay their tithes anyway. In the meantime, for those people, a church could consider collecting their tithes cheerfully, saving it for them and then giving the money back to them individually, in full, as a gift at a later time. For those who insist on tithing and who do so in cash or anonymously, maybe suggest establishing a general fund where 100% of that money is distributed back among any congregation members who are in financial need and among the poor in the community. I think such an assembly would quickly become known as a church of profound love in action.
Christians should also be encouraged to be sensitive and aware of any needs around them so that they can give directly to people who are struggling financially whenever possible. This bypasses a lot of the unnecessary red tape, bureaucracy and waste that is present in most churches today. Recipients of such gifts often have no problem interpreting such generosity as the love of Christ in action. This can open up many doors for the Gospel message to be presented and received.
We also see what amounts to much inter-believer giving in the New Testament as early Christians gave to other Christians directly without first giving the money or item to the church to distribute. This should be encouraged as well. But of course if a church as a whole has a genuine need or would like to give a gift to another church for example, this need can be presented to the church to see who would like to donate to that particular cause. It’s all based on freewill giving not compulsory giving.
Let Us Reason With Logic and Common Sense
We should also consider appealing to the logic and common sense of those caught in the tithing error. In addition to being unbiblical, tithing for the Christian just doesn't make sense for a number of reasons. God says, “Come let us reason together”. So unless we are dealing with a mystery or other unexplainable spiritual thing beyond our human comprehension, it is clear that God expects us to reason things out carefully and to use common sense and logic when interpreting the Scriptures. Many Christians need to be made aware of this simple fact.
Unfortunately with all the bad teachings on so many topics today, Christians haven’t learned to think for themselves according to what the Bible teaches about any particular subject let alone about true Biblical giving vs. tithing. Christians should be encouraged to think for themselves.
Some Things to Keep in Mind:
(These are just some brief overviews. I am not going into much depth on any of the following topics.)
Failure to Tithe Does Not Bring A Curse
If a Christian is under the typical wrong impression that God will curse them if they don't tithe, then that myth should be carefully dispelled. Otherwise they will be afraid to convert to freewill giving over time (as they hopefully come to a true understanding of what the Bible really teaches in the area of Christian giving). Again, it is especially hard for Christians to break the tithing habit if they have been wrongfully convinced that they will be cursed and lose their family, health, job or car, etc. for not complying. Tithe teachers love to misquote Malachi 3 to try to scare Christians so much so that their wallets and purses will come flying open. Some tithe teachers are so evil and twisted that they teach that a Christian will lose their salvation if they fail to tithe. What rubbish!
Tithing Does Not Bring A Blessing
Additionally, many Christians believe that God has and is continuing to bless them based in no small part on their tithing. Christian business owners for example will often claim that it is their tithing that is responsible for prospering their businesses. Among many other problems with this mindset, it is man and not God who gets the glory in these situations. And, logically we can line up dozens of unbelieving millionaire business owners who have never once tithed and yet have greatly prospered financially. Do unbelievers say that their lack of tithing has brought them increase? Of course not. Similarly, not only is it unbiblical, but it is not logical to claim that tithing brings increase. The often misquoted Malachi 3 passage seems to promote a big blessing to all those who tithe. But Malachi is an Old Testament book that was written to Jews, not Christians and it was written for a specific purpose and situation.
A Major Red Flag
Furthermore, the Bible says that God sends the rain on the evil as well as the good. This doesn't suddenly change once a person becomes a Christian. An unbeliever is not penalized with the loss of God's continuing provision upon become a Christians whereby they are somehow now forced to tithe just to enjoy a privilege that they already had before becoming a Christian. The nonsensical tithing doctrine requires just such a change to be mandatory. This is one of the major red flags that exposes the tithing doctrine.
The Modern Tithing Doctrine Undermines the Gospel
Just by listening to what some unbelievers have to say on the subject of tithing, it quickly becomes clear that the modern tithing doctrine undermines the Gospel message and keeps a lot of people from coming to Christ. It just doesn’t make any sense that Jesus died freely for our sins yet He charges us 10% of our income like some kind of club dues or fees. Something seems fishy because it is. Many unbelievers refuse to consider the Gospel message because of this very conflict.
The truth is we owe 100% of our lives and 100% of our money to be put at God's discretionary use as He sees fit. Of course our lives and money are not to be given to some man or group of men to spend for us. And, we don’t dedicate our lives and money to God in some foolish attempt to try to buy our salvation, but rather in thankfulness towards God for the salvation that Christ has already bought and paid for at the cross through His death and resurrection.
Giving is Not About Percentages
Many Christians are locked into the Old Testament idea of 10% being their “first fruits”. In Christ our whole lives including our time and money are our “first fruits” that are to be offered to God. We are not at 10%, we are at 100%. If we see a homeless person who temporarily needs 20% of our week’s income, then 10% should not limit us. Or, if only a single need is presented to us and we donate what amounts to 3% of our income for a particular time frame, we are not required to find something else just to religiously give the remaining 7% for a total of 10%. It’s not about percentages but obedience to God at any moment.
For example, if 98% or more of our income is truly necessary to properly take care of our family and we cheerfully give it for their support, them we are spending that money exactly they way God wants it to be spent. The Bible makes it clear that a man who does not care for his own family is worse than an infidel. Many more examples could be given. Regardless, we shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of percentages. Christ has set us free from such limitations.
Freedom or Unending Slavery?
The Bible also says that God has given us all things to enjoy. So not only can all our money be spent in joy as we take care of our families, take care of ourselves, pay our bills and give what we can to others, some of our money is actually to be used for our own personal enjoyment as long as such expenditures are made in modesty and not excess and sin. The Scriptures teach that all things should be done in moderation.
Tithe teachers lack the love of God and make no such provisions for our provision, joy or our enjoyment. They pound out their misinterpreted legalistic requirements and yell their demands and threats from the pulpit. They relentlessly demand money even when we cannot afford to give. They are like that slave-owning Pharaoh of old who required bricks to be made without straw. Their demands are ever increasing and relief is never in sight. Thank God we know the truth and thank God we serve the real God who loves us.
For those who do not follow God directly (like Israel who rejected God and instead wanted a man as their king) they suffer a kind of self-imposed curse of blindness where they now serve and submit to a Pastor-Pharaoh instead of Christ.
Tithing Often Leads to Debt
Tithing leaves no room for different individuals or families of different income levels to give or retain more or less according to what they have. God expects us to give according to what we have not according to what we do not have. Tithing for the Christian as popularly taught allows no such room for variations in income or financial circumstances.
With the average working class family probably being unable to save even 5% of their income, it is little surprise that so many Christians are broke and have no money left for their families or for the poor. By the time they pay 10% of their income plus offerings plus some ridiculous building fund commitment, virtually all discretionary income has gone right out the window and many Christians go into debt just to try to bridge the gap in leading a normal life. It’s a devastating and vicious cycle yet the tithe teachers get richer and the unnecessary palatial buildings that they build grow larger and larger.
The New Indulgences
Tithing as practiced in most churches has become quite a bit like the Roman Catholic doctrine of paying indulgences. Christians get to reserve 100% of their lives and 90% of their money by paying only 10% of the income, effectively giving less than 5% of their overall lives to the Lord. They think they have purchased a license to do whatever they please and to turn a blind eye towards any real needs around them because they “paid their tithes”. It’s kind of like an I already gave at the office mentality. For the others that I mentioned, after tithing they are so broke that they have no money left over to use or give to anyone.
The Multi-Billion Dollar Fraud
Fraud even innocently perpetrated is still fraud in the eyes of the law. Although tithing is often innocently promoted by some well meaning yet highly misguided teachers, it is also pushed by some very greedy people, some of who are very much aware of the tithing error. Their love of money supercedes any interest in truth. And, far from being just another error, the modern tithing doctrine has become what amounts to a major multi-billion dollar fraud that has been and continues to be perpetrated upon the vast majority of Christians. Tithe teachers should be very careful. When it comes to money, especially such astronomical tax-free amounts, the government doesn’t take financial fraud lightly.
Even in church circles, even under the supposed protection of “spiritual matters” and the separation of church and state, if the government ever decides to get involved, and decides to look deeper into what is really going on here, tithe teachers could face some serious jail time and be required to give the money back and / or pay taxes on it. Such a crackdown could permanently compromise the tax-exempt status of even legitimate non-tithe promoting ministries such as some of those who help the poor. Jesus paid His taxes so I am not overly concerned about ministries having a tax-exempt status but these tithe teachers are playing fast and loose with billions of tax-free dollars, abusing multitudes financially, and they may end up in serious trouble with the law and end up ruining the tax-exempt status of all ministries even good ones.